While the UK has so far avoided to implode in a depressionary supernova in the aftermath of Brexit contrary to what most of the “experts” and Tokyo-owned UK journalists had predicted, changes are taking place, mostly among the top echelons of power. Earlier today, the latest political fallout from the Brexit vote was the news that former Goldman economist, and BRIC acornym creator, Lord Jim O’Neill, resigned from the U.K. government, weeks after newspaper reports suggested he was disappointed with Prime Minister Theresa May’s policy toward China.
In a letter to May released on Friday, the Manchester native who was a key advocate of the UK forging strong links with China and was commercial secretary for 18 months, said he joined the government in 2015 to help improve the economy of northern England and to boost ties with emerging markets such as China. Admitting that David Cameron’s and the BOE’s forecasts for a post-Brexit apocalypse were wrong, As Bloomberg reports, O’Neill wrote to the new Prime Minister that “the case for both to be at the heart of British economic policy is even stronger following the referendum, and I am pleased that, despite speculation to the contrary, both appear to be commanding your personal attention.”
The Financial Times reported in July that O’Neill was threatening to quit as the U.K. Treasury’s commercial secretary because he was irritated by May’s decision to postpone approval of a deal with China to build Britain’s first atomic plant in 20 years. May subsequently endorsed the Hinkley Point project.
Bloomberg adds that O’Neill, 59, was a high-profile appointment to former Prime Minister David Cameron’s government and he was elevated to the House of Lords, the unelected upper chamber of Parliament. He will stay in the Lords, but no longer as a member of the ruling Conservative Party. In his letter, he tied the timing of his departure to this week’s United Nations agreement to find ways to offset resistance to antibiotics. He had chaired a U.K. commission on that topic.
May thanked O’Neill by letter and praised him for his work on China and promoting the north by saying he had “laid important foundations in these areas and the government will build on them.”
It remains to be seen if O’Neill will now complete the revolving door, and go back to his old-employer, Goldman. O’Neill joined Goldman Sachs in 1995, becoming head of economics in 2001 and then chairman of its asset-management arm in 2010 before stepping down in 2013. He was seen as a potential candidate to replace Mervyn King as governor of the Bank of England in 2012 although he subsequently said he didn’t apply.
As previously reported, ties between Goldman Sachs and governments have been in the news lately after the bank’s hiring of former European Commission President Jose Barroso drew criticism from his successor, Jean-Claude Juncker, and French President Francois Hollande.